Fibbing robots: what’s the harm in a little white lie?

Philosopher of science Alistair Isaac on why robots learning to lie is not the end of the world

White lies in our everyday lives serve to improve human-to-human interactions – like telling your boss that you like his hideous tie – but how can this contribute to better robot-human interactions?

A new book on robot ethics discusses the possible ethical implications of advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence (“AI”) – including the idea that in order for robots to interact better with humans, we need them to be able to lie to us.

Alistair Isaac, Lecturer in Mind and Cognition at the University of Edinburgh, joined forces with computer scientist Will Bridewell to write a chapter explaining why robots that are programmed with the ability to deceive us are not the stuff of sci-fi nightmares that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey would have us believe.

Find out what Bridewell and Isaac had to say to technology publication Gizmodo about these duplicitous robots:

Why we’ll eventually want our robots to deceive us

About Alistair Isaac

Alistair Isaac is a philosophy lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include the nature of representation, the history and nature of psychology, and the philosophy of science.


Lin, Abney & Jenkins (eds). Robot Ethics 2.0: From Autonomous Cars to Artificial Intelligence. Oxford University Press, 2017.

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